<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:14:11 -0700 Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:14:11 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA["Obama's Blaster" Gun Barrel Is a Joke: Store Owner]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:21:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Obamas+blaster+gun+barrel.JPG

An Oceanside-based gun parts store has incited nationwide controversy over an item dubbed “The Obama’s Blaster” – controversy the store’s owner welcomes.

Ares Armor owner Dimitrios Karras told NBC 7 he has received a slew of death threats after naming a $550 AR-15 gun barrel “The Obama’s Blaster” as a joke.\

"I mean, we had one guy who literally said he wished he had a rocket launcher to shoot rockets at us because we named a product after the president,” said Karras. “He's so anti-gun that he's become pro-rocket.”

In a YouTube video and description dripping with sarcasm, Ares Armor thanks President “Barrack” Obama for being “the distinguished firearms industry spokesman and salesman of all time.”

The video’s description compares the president to Marvin the Martian from the cartoon Looney Tunes, whose goal is to destroy Earth to get a better view of Venus. It says the United States is blocking Obama’s social and political views of our “pesky Constitution.”

Although the post includes a disclaimer saying it’s a parody for the purpose of symbolic speech, many people aren’t laughing.

“So you're making not so subtle hints at killing the President. Congrats! You're right up there with ISIS, you unpatriotic pieces of s***,” one viewer commented.

Karras defended the name, explaining the apostrophe means it’s not a threat.

"It is 'The Obama's Blaster.' It's a singular possessive, which means it's a blaster that would be used by Obama,” he said.

The former Marine said he knew the name would make people talk, but he was surprised with the amount of pushback it has caused. Across the country, The Washington Times recently caught wind of the controversy and called Karras.

He told NBC 7 the store is considering an entire presidential line so our current commander-in-chief isn’t the only one singled out. Karras threw out names like “Bush’s Revenge” or “Slick Willy” for follow-up parts.

In San Diego, opinions are split on the gun barrel.

"I feel like that crosses a line on a whole bunch of different levels,” said Neal Carlson, who works for a marketing firm. “I'm not really too into politics that much but to have a barrel attachment for an AR-15 named after our president is very intense. I don't think that that's at all OK.”

But others see it as a nod to Obama’s position as the leader of our military.

“He gave the order to take out Osama Bin Laden. I mean, he's just showing him some honor. What's wrong with that?" said Job Seth Davidson, a former Marine.

Clearly Ares Armor customers don’t object. “The Obama’s Blaster” is completely sold out.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Cowpens Exec. Officer Removed for Alcohol Incident]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:05:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/USS-Cowpens-51194380.jpg

The executive officer of USS Cowpens was relieved of his duties because of an alcohol-related incident, a U.S. Navy spokesperson confirmed.

Cmdr. Armando Ramirez was taken from his position Thursday by the commanding officer, Capt. Scott Sciretta, aboard the San Diego-based guided missile cruiser.

However, Navy spokesperson Lt. Rick Chernitzer did not reveal details about the incident for which he was relieved.

Ramirez has been temporarily assigned to Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Cmdr. Justin Harts will take over his duties as executive officer of the Cowpens.

This is the latest in a number of leadership shifts for the ship. In June, USS Cowpens' skipper Capt. Gregory W. Gombert and command Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton were both removed from their positions.

A Navy investigation later found that the ailing Gombert retreated to his cabin for several weeks in the middle of deployement. Investigators say his medical problems should not have required him to stay apart from the crew from early January to March.

Keeton was accused of failing to notify anyone outside the ship of the troubles on board, even though he told crew members he would.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Man Dies Trying to Help in SR-67 Crash]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:58:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/67+crash+fatal+0919.jpg

One person was killed in a five-vehicle collision on State Route 67 in Santee early Friday.

Moments after the crash occurred at 5:40 a.m., California Highway Patrol closed all lanes of northbound SR-67 at State Route 52.

The victim in the crash was a 23-year-old Ramona man who had gotten out of his vehicle to try and help victims in a two-car crash, CHP officials said.

The man was standing near the median, helping an occupant of one of the cars involved in the initial wreck when he was struck by an oncoming car.

The impact threw the man into the southbound lanes where he was struck again by another vehicle, CHP spokesperson Brian Pennings said.

At the same time, two more cars in the northbound lanes collided into other cars; five vehicles in total were damaged.

One other person was taken to the hospital with injuries. Further information on that person's condition wasn't immediately known.

All northbound lanes of the highway shut down in addition to one southbound lane.

An alternate route for northbound traffic would be to take Magnolia to Woodside, according to NBC 7's Whitney Southwick.

Now, California Highway Patrol officers have a message for drivers.

"First and foremost, if you're going to get out of your car, it is very dangerous and you need to be aware of oncoming traffic," said CHP Officer Brian Pennings. "We have a situation where someone was trying to help out. It's also very important for citizens to realize there's danger ahead and not become complacent when you're driving."

<![CDATA[SDPD, Councilmember Give Backpacks to Kids in Need]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:41:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDPD-Backpack-Giveaway.jpg

Students at Hamilton Elementary School got an exciting surprise Friday when San Diego police officers came to their school bearing very useful gifts: brand-new backpacks filled with school supplies.

SDPD’s Mid-City Juvenile Service Team and Councilmember Marti Emerald’s staff hosted a backpack giveaway, donating the bags filled with school supplies to students in need, as selected by school faculty.

For many of the children, school supplies are difficult to purchase, so the donations were highly needed and appreciated.

Rudy Vargas, of Marti Emerald’s office, said the councilmember’s team donated $2,000 to make the giveaway possible. In conjunction with the San Diego Police Department, Emerald and police hope to help more local children in this way in the future.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner up with them and continue delivering resources to our youth,” Vargas told NBC 7. “The kids are really happy. This is just one of the many resources they need to be successful in life, to give them an opportunity to excel.”

SDPD Sgt. Ben McCurry said the department was thrilled to partake in Friday’s event.

“It’s great to see them get the tools that they need to be able to go to school and get an education. It’s good to see them excited about school,” said McCurry.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:25:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CheetahCubs0919.JPG

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has welcomed two new cheetah cubs that are being raised by zoo staff.

The three-week-old cubs are providing quite the adorable show at the Safari Park, as they are often swatting each other, wrestling and playing in their enclosure.

The cubs are being raised by zoo staff, who provide bottle feedings and around-the-clock care, because their mother, Allie, was unsuccessful raising her previous litters.

The cubs, which currently weigh 3 pounds each, will be partnered with a dog when they get older.

Cheetahs not reared by their mothers are partnered with dogs at the zoo because dogs’ body language is known to calm and relax the cheetahs.

Park visitors can see the cubs at the animal care center for a few hours daily starting at 9 a.m.

<![CDATA[City Offers to Settle De Anza Mobile Home Lawsuit]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:45:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/de+anza+cove+mobile+homes.JPG

The City of San Diego has offered to settle a decade-long lawsuit over prime real estate in Mission Bay Park.

The offer by the city is to pay about $22 million plus attorney fees to the De Anza Cove mobile homeowners in relocation benefits before closing the park and kicking them out.

“In return, neither party would appeal and the residents would be required to leave, returning De Anza Cove to the City of San Diego,” a new release from the City of San Diego said.

The city’s offer to settle follows a ruling made by a Superior Court judge in August calling for the city to pay the homeowners $22 million.

The residents filed a class action lawsuit against the city in 2003 when the park’s lease expired. Their attorney Tim Tatro argues that under state law, lease expiration in a mobile home park does not constitute grounds for eviction.

Tatro has said at full occupancy, there were 509 homes in the park, about two-thirds of which remain. He said the rest have already been destroyed, taken to landfills or transported to Mexico.

A response from the homeowners wasn't immediately available Friday evening.

<![CDATA[San Diego Considers Lifting Cap on Cab Permits]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:18:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/020413+yellow+cab+taxi+generic.jpg

A proposal that would essentially create a “free market” for cabs in San Diego moved out of committee to the full City Council this week.

The measure would lift the cap on how many taxi permits the city hands out, eliminating an underground market for licenses that have costs ranging as high as $150,000 according to one published report.

Hundreds of people lined up to speak when the measure proposed by Councilwoman Marti Emerald and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was considered at the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee meeting Thursday.

The meeting room was to capacity and they had to open an over flow room.

Proponents believe the move would open the door for taxi drivers who now lease their cabs to start their own taxi businesses.

Cab driver Abdikadir Abdisalan doesn’t want anyone to lose their taxi. He just wants to be his own boss.

“I want the city to give me the opportunity and the privilege to be an individual who can have his own cab, run his own shift, doesn't have to have anybody over his head telling him where to go or where to be,” Abdisalan saiad.

However, there is the question about what happens to those permit holders who invested thousands of dollars into a license only to have more businesses flood the market?

Opponents say local cab companies are already facing growing competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. More permits, they say, means more drivers when there already isn't enough customers.

Cab owner Les Sevaard said the idea of creating a fair market sounds good on paper.

“If you put out more cabs nobody will be able to make a living and it will be chaos on the streets,” Sevaard said.

The measure now moves to the City Council for debate.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stranger Orders Boy Into Van: PD]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:48:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/City-Heights-Attm-Kidnap.jpg

San Diego police are looking for a man accused of trying to kidnap a 10-year-old boy in City Heights, demanding that the boy get into his van.

According to the San Diego Police Department, the attempted kidnapping happened Thursday just before 7 p.m. in the 4500 block of Mississippi Street.

The boy was riding his bike when a van drove up and stopped in front of him. The driver got out and started to open the sliding side door.

The driver then allegedly told the boy to get into the van, investigators said.

The boy was able to escape on his bike without further incident and made it home safely.

He told police the suspect was wearing a black ski mask and all black clothing. His van was described as a black 1990s Plymouth Voyager, similar to the van in the photograph above. The paint on the vehicle
was old and oxidized and the rear windows were blacked out.

The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information should contact the SDPD.

Photo Credit: SDPD]]>
<![CDATA[Tiny Parks Pop Up in Urban San Diego]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:53:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Downtown-SD-Parklet-1.jpg

Various new, small parks sprouted in urban parts of San Diego Friday as part of ongoing efforts to transform car-dominated areas into public gathering spaces.

First, in bustling downtown San Diego, a temporary pop-up “parklet” was unveiled at 4th Avenue, between Market Street and Island Avenue. A free street yoga class was held in the space typically reserved for vehicle traffic. Visitors were also able to play games in the roped off area and were treated to a free, live lunchtime concert.

Over on the roof of the 6th and K Parkade, another parklet opened to the public, complete with blue artificial turf, a pop-up tent, beach balls, pink flamingos and lawn chairs.

In all, about a dozen temporary mini parks sprouted throughout downtown, with most staying open through the afternoon.

The mini parks are part of “PARK(ing) Day,” a global event that aims to highlight the need for more public gathering spaces in busy urban communities and finding creative ways to reallocate even the tiniest of spaces for public use.

In San Diego, the efforts were spearheaded by the Downtown San Diego Partnership, as well as the City of San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter Association.

For downtown business owners like Darren Moore, it was a welcome sight. He told NBC 7 he loved seeing people hanging out in the street, playing games and using the area in a whole new way.

“This is offering residents an opportunity to see their downtown in a different way,” said Moore. “It’s nice to have people riding by on their bikes and stopping in and just taking it all in. It’s a real fresh way to look at what’s happening downtown.”

Moore said he’d love to have more permanent parklet move into downtown San Diego because it would shift the focus of the area from vehicle traffic to more pedestrians.

Meanwhile, over in North Park, a permanent parklet was set to be unveiled by San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria at 2 p.m.

Located at 4237 Alabama Street in front of Mama’s Lebanese Bakery, the mini park will replace two parking spaces and serve as an extension of the sidewalk, providing a public gathering area resembling a mini plaza.

This particular parklet is San Diego’s second permitted parklet. The city's first permitted parklet is located on 30th Street, in front of Caffe Calabria.

Back in June, a “pocket park” also opened in a 2,500-square-foot private lot snugly situated between buildings at 13th Avenue and J Street, next to the Mission Café.

Last month, the City of San Diego and the Downtown San Diego Partnership held a competition calling for innovative design ideas for a mobile “parklet” to continue this initiative. The winning design received $5,000 to construct a roving mini park.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[You Know It's Fall in San Diego...]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:14:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Bates-Nut-Farm-Pumpkins.jpg

Pumpkin patches, apple picking, football and ice rinks can only mean one thing: it's fall in San Diego. As the season turns, enjoy these fun fall activities that remind us, once again, that we truly do live in America's Finest City.

Julian Apple Picking
Craving some fresh fruit in the fall? Once the leaves start to turn, San Diegans often head east to Julian for apple picking season, which typically runs from Sept. 1 through October. Apples and Art Orchards, for instance, will host apple picking by appointment only for larger groups. Visitors will get to pick McIntosh, Jonathon, Golden and Red Delicious Apples early in the fall season, plus Granny Smith, Fuji, Lady Apples and heirloom varieties a little later. For a full list of orchards in Julian, click here.

Bates Nut Farm
Nothing says fall in San Diego like a visit to the Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center. The picturesque North County family farm opens its doors to visitors year after year, offering a beautiful setting for picnics, leisurely strolls and, of course, delicious snacks including nuts, candies, dried fruits, chocolates and homemade fudge. This fall, the farm will open its famous pumpkin patch from Sept. 24 through Oct. 31 featuring family-friendly activities and pumpkin picking. On weekends, the Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch includes live entertainment from noon to 3 p.m., plus fresh BBQ, kettle corn, food trucks and other fall fun. Both admission and parking are free.

Chargers Football

Really, what is fall without football? Decked out in blue and gold, San Diegans can cheer on the Chargers all season at Qualcomm Stadium. Check out the Bolts website for the schedule of home games at the Q. Also, don’t forget the tailgate party before the game.

The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park
As the spooky Halloween season approaches, The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park is a sure-fire way to have a frightening fall. Open from Sept. 26 through Nov. 1, this mile-long trail is a stroll through the park you’ll never forget. Those who dare enter through a twisted grove of pines and gnarled oaks. After that, all bets are off as scary surprises wait at every corner. This year, The Haunted Trail will also host an additional maze dubbed “The eXperiment,” described as “3,500-square-feet of freak-infested terror.” Tickets range from $19 to $35 per person, depending on whether you want to combine the trail and “eXperiment” maze.

The Haunted Hotel
Looking for spine-tingling thrills? Head to The Haunted Hotel in the Gaslamp for a good scare – if you dare. Patrons make their way through a creepy hotel, trying to escape from all kinds of ghouls. This spooky fall attraction runs from Sept. 26 through Nov. 1 and general admission costs $18 per person.

Viejas Ice Rink
Sure, we live in sunny San Diego but ice rinks do exist here, too. Take the family to the ice rink at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine (right next to the casino and resort) – the largest outdoor ice rink in Southern California. The skating season kicks off Oct. 31 with a special Halloween Trick-or-Treat event from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and wraps up on Jan. 4, 2015. Each year, approximately 33,000 people skate here. It’s $12 to skate for kids 12 and under and $14 for adults and teens.

Ice Skating at Horton Square
Each year, the square just outside the NBC 7 studios and Horton Plaza Mall in downtown San Diego transforms into an ice rink. This year, the "Fantasy on Ice" skating season begins Nov. 20 and runs through Jan. 5. The rink is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets cost $14 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under, which includes rental ice skates. Season passes can typically be purchased for around $35.

Wine Tasting in Temecula
Temecula in north San Diego County is known for its wine country and in the fall, many wineries host special harvest events in addition to their daily tastings. Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards, for example, will host a “Sip, Savor & Stomp” harvest celebration on Oct. 3 and Oct. 24 that includes a hayride along vineyards, wine tasting, grape stomping, a farm fresh buffet dinner and live music. Lorimar Vineyards and Winery will kick off the fall season with a grape stomp and harvest festival too, set for Sept. 20 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village
n true Southern California fashion – sporting board shorts and flip-flops – Surfin’ Santa is slated to make his annual arrival at Seaport Village on Nov. 29. He’ll arrive in style, via a special water craft, and enjoy the San Diego sunshine while visiting with locals from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. He’ll also pose for pictures with his surfboard, of course.

Photo Credit: Bill Paulson]]>
<![CDATA[SDUSD to Return Armored Vehicle to Feds]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:05:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MRAP_before.jpg

After announcing big plans to convert a military armored vehicle into a rescue tool, the San Diego Unified School District has decided to return it to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Superintendent Cindy Marten cited community concern as she announced the return of their mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle Thursday.

“Some members of our community are not comfortable with the district having this vehicle,” said Marten. “If any part of our community is not comfortable with it, we cannot be comfortable with it.”

The federal government granted the MRAP to the SDUSD Police Department under its Excess Property Program (1033 Program), which allocates surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement.

SDUSD officials planned to use the vehicle in active shooter situations on campuses to break down barriers and evacuate students. They also wanted to equip it with thousands of dollars’ worth of medical supplies in case of an emergency where several hundred wounded need treatment.

But unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, has sparked national criticism over the militarization of local police departments.

Rueben Littlejohn, SDUSD police chief, said they need to be sensitive to that perception.

“The value that this defensive tool would bring cannot exceed the value of retaining the public’s trust, confidence and perceptions of how we will protect our students,” he said.

Even School Board Trustee Scott Barnett spoke out against the acquisition, calling it misguided.

Instead of using the MRAP, the department will work with other San Diego-area law enforcement and the community to respond to emergencies, Littlejohn said.

District authorities say the process for returning the vehicle is underway, and the 1033 program coordinator has told them to hold on to the MRAP until they can find another place to send it.

Photo Credit: SDUSD]]>
<![CDATA[Cop Car Slams Into Dunkin' Donuts]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:48:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/cop+car+into+dunkin+donuts+berlin.jpg

A South Jersey police vehicle slammed into a doughnut shop Friday morning.

The police SUV crashed into the Dunkin' Donuts shop along White Horse Pike in Berlin, New Jersey just before 11 a.m. Winslow Township Police said the SUV crashed into the building after colliding with another car.

The unidentified Winslow Township Police officer suffered minor injuries, according to investigators. The other driver refused treatment.

No customers or employees inside the store reported any injuries, according to police.

As SkyForce10 hovered overhead, you could see the Winslow Township Police SUV right through the front window of the coffee shop with the driver's side door open.

Police said the crash caused structural damage to the building. No word yet on when repairs will be made.

Investigators said that the officer wasn't headed to a call at the time of the wreck. The cause of the wreck remained under investigation Friday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Kenny LaFountaine]]>
<![CDATA[8 Pounds of Heroin Stashed in Car Battery]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:38:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Border-Bust-White-China-Heroin-1.JPG Images of smuggling attempts at their finest.

Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection]]>
<![CDATA[MCRD Graduates New Mascot, Smedley the Bulldog]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:31:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Smedley09193.jpg

The Marine Corps’ most recent graduate is a bit shorter than the other Marines.

And a little furrier. But he’s most certainly the cutest.

Smedley Butler, San Diego’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot’s mascot, graduated on Friday from recruit training. He now assumes the mascot duties from Cpl. Belleau Wood, who retired in April to a loving family in Temecula.

The English bulldog, born in San Diego in February, is the latest in a long MCRD tradition of English bulldog mascots. The first mascot was James Jolly Plum Duff, who was recruited in 1939.

He is named after Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, who at the time of his death was the most decorated Marine in Marine Corps history.

So what does a MCRD mascot do? He’ll participate in events, such as family day, motivational runs, graduation ceremonies and recruiting events.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Teacher Accused of 5 Sex Assaults]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:56:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/teacher+arrest1.jpg

A northern New Jersey high school teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting three 15-year-old students is now being accused of assaulting two more students, authorities say.

Nicole Dufault,  35,of Caldwell, was arrested Wednesday night for the alleged assaults inside Columbia High School in Maplewood and in her car since last year, the Essex County prosecutor's office said. The students were allegedly assaulted during the summer months and the school year, authorities said.

Dufault pleaded not guilty to charges involving the initial three students Friday morning. It wasn't clear when she would be arraigned on the additional charges.

Authorities said the additional two students did not just come forward; rather, "we just reached the stage in the investigation where the charges involved these students could be added," according to the prosecutor's office. 

Dufault was being held on $500,000 bail at the Essex County Correctional Facility and police say they removed two children from her custody.

Information on Dufault's attorney wasn't immediately available.

The investigation began with school officials, who then flagged law enforcement, according to the prosecutor's office. 

Board of Education president Elizabeth Daugherty said in a statement Friday that the allegations "deeply disturbing," but declined to discuss how the investigation began, citing confidentiality rules. 

Daugherty said the board and the administration will cooperate with authorities in their investigation. 

Some parents were stunned by the news of the teacher's arrest Thursday and went to the school in search of information.

"We need to know what happened, when it happened and why it happened," said one mother who did not want to give her name. She said when she called the high school for answers, the person who picked up hung up on her. 

"That's not acceptable," she said. 

No one answered Dufault's home door Thursday, but a neighbor said she saw the mother of two young boys being taken away in handcuffs and is shocked by the accusation.

"I feel for the family," the neighbor said. 

Prosecutors say Dufault is a language arts teacher and has worked at the school for nine years.

The school was offering counseling and other assistance.

Follow Ida Siegal on Twitter @idasiegal4NY

Follow Danielle Elias on Twitter @danielle4ny

More Local News Stories:

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Fuel Tanker Spill Snarls I-15 Traffic]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:06:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/tanker+crash+daytime.jpg

An overturned fuel tanker and fuel spill shut down a North County highway early Friday.

Northbound Interstate 15 was closed from Poway Road to Ted Williams Parkway for several hours, officials said.

The tanker truck was traveling northbound along I-15 at 11:30 p.m. when the driver lost control and crashed, San Diego Fire Rescue officials said.

Approximately 2,200 gallons of gasoline spilled onto I-15 and into nearby storm drains.

Firefighters used sand to stop the flow of fuel while other workers brought in another tanker to offload the remaining fuel.

California Highway Patrol officers anticipated several lanes of NB I-15 would be reopened to morning commuters, but did not expect to clear the crash scene until 10 a.m.

NB I-15 HOV lanes were open to all drivers.

By 10:20 a.m., four of the five lanes had reopened.

<![CDATA[Teacher's Shooting Death Was Self-Defense: Suspect's Father]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:59:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julie+harper+0918.JPG

The woman on trial for her husband’s murder said she shot him out of self-defense, her father testified Thursday.

John Cihak reluctantly took the stand in the trial of his daughter Julie Harper, 41, accused of first-degree murder in the death of her husband, beloved Carlsbad High School teacher Jason Harper. He was shot to death inside the couple’s Carlsbad home on Aug. 7, 2012, just days after his wife asked him for a divorce.

Prosecutors made it clear in court that Cihak was not willing to testify against his daughter, but the District Attorney’s Office sent him a subpoena to require it.

Cihak told the jury his daughter unexpectedly showed up alone at his Normal Heights real estate office on Aug. 7, 2012.

She walked in and told him “Jason was dead,” he said.

Cihak asked her to repeat it.

“‘Jason is dead,’” recounted Cihak, “and I’m… I sort of went into shock. I started saying something like, ‘What, when, how. Just got into a lot of trauma in my mind.”

But when the prosecutor asked him what Harper’s answers were, he said he did not recall.

The only thing he said he could remember of their conversation was, “she said something, uh, ‘I shot Jason to defend myself.’”

Cihak told the court his first reaction was shock, and his second thought was to seek out a defense attorney.

The deputy district attorney asked it if occurred to him to call 911, and he said he did not think of that. Nor did he ask about the gun Harper used or about why she needed to defend herself, Cihak testified.

Under prosecution questioning, he did say he did not see anything on Harper that would indicate she had been in a physical struggle.

Cihak and Harper set up a meeting with defense attorney Paul Pfingst, who advised them not to talk with police about the case, the suspect’s father said.

That night, the two picked up Harper’s three children and took them to Cihak’s Scripps Ranch home. Again, Cihak told the court he and Harper did not discuss what happened between her and Jason before they went to sleep.

At 5:30 the next morning, they were awoken by Carlsbad Police officers ringing the doorbell, but Cihak said they did not answer because of Pfingst’s advice.

Harper turned herself over to police later that day at her father’s home while Cihak took his grandchildren to Rady Children’s Hospital for a police-mandated evaluation.

That same day – Aug. 8, 2012 – police searched Cihak’s house and seized his computer, his personal guns and some money.

What they missed, proseuctors pointed out, was a bag that Cihak said he had kept in his car because he thought it belonged to one of his grandchildren.

Instead, the bag held a gun, the family’s passports, $39,000 in cash, jewelry and prescription pill bottles holding at least 300 pills, which Cihak did not discover until days later, he said.

"Did you wonder to yourself why there is a bag with a gun, passports, jewelry and $39,000 cash?” the deputy DA asked Cihak.

"It looked like a lot of stuff that she would accumulate when she was leaving her house,” said Cihak. He claimed the family was planning to go on an Alaskan cruise before Jason was found dead.

Julie instructed her attorney to use the cash to pay for her bail, which is why Cihak finally looked inside, he testified.

After Pfingst and a coworker arranged a meeting to hand over the money, they watched Cihak place the bag in his attic, he said.

The prosecution asked Cihak if he believed he was hiding items of evidence from the police, to which he responded, “No.”

Police executed another search warrant days later and seized the bag as evidence.

Harper's jury trial continues Friday. If convicted, she faces up to 50 years to life in prison.

<![CDATA[Enterovirus Reported in San Diego]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:55:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/flu_generic.jpg

A rare virus that has sickened dozens of children across the country has been reported in San Diego, health officials confirmed Thursday.

Three children from San Diego County and one child visiting from Ventura were hospitalized for a respiratory illness, which turned out to be Enterovirus D68, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA.)

The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 13, were treated earlier this month at Rady Children's Hospital and have since been released, health officials said.

These are the first Enterovirus D68 cases reported in California. More cases are expected in the coming weeks.

Symptoms of enterovirus are similar to the common cold, including fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body aches. In severe cases, children could be wheezing and have difficulty breathing. This is when parents should take their children to the emergency room.

Otherwise, health officials said parents have no reason to panic.

“This is for all intents and purposes the common cold,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer. “The majority of people who get this -- children, infants, teens, even adults -- will not have any severe symptoms, will not need to be seen by their doctor.”

Rady Children's Hospital has seen a 20 percent increase in emergency room visits from kids with respiratory issues, according to Dr. John Bradley, Director of Infectious Diseases. However, Bradley said there is an influx of enterovirus cases every late summer and early fall. There are more than 100 types of enterovirus.

“This particular enterovirus (EV-D68), which causes respiratory track symptoms, is not one that we usually see. So why are we seeing this this year? We don’t know,” he said.

“This virus has probably been here for a month or two already,” he added.

Health officials said kids with asthma are most at-risk for complications from Enterovirus D68. Three of the four California children who contracted the virus suffered from asthma.

To put parents' minds at ease, Bradley said Enterovirus D68 is not life-threatening. Also, the cases in San Diego were not as severe as cases reported in other states.

“In the Midwest, there were kids who couldn’t breathe, who needed to go on breathing machines, ventilators,” he said. “None of our cases in San Diego have even made it to a ventilator. They’ve all been managed successfully with a little extra oxygen and bronchodialation.”

How To Avoid Transmission of Enterovirus:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/California Department of Health)

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Valley Golf Course to be Replaced With Condos]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:43:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Riverwalk_pic_1200x675_331033155884.jpg

The Riverwalk Golf Club in Mission Valley will be replaced with condominiums as early as 2018, according to early plans submitted to the city.

The golf course falls on private land and the developer, Related California, plans to turn the 200-acre parcel into an urban village with most of the construction focusing on residential use.

The Mission Valley Planning Group has yet to take an official stance on the project, but voted unanimously to move the process along, showing cautious optimism in the project’s early stages.

The project excites some city leaders because it would include space along the San Diego River for a trail. This falls in line with the larger vision of a continuous river front trail stretching from the mountains to the coast.

While city insiders say the Riverwalk Golf Club has never been part of the long term vision for Mission Valley, local residents who heard about the project are concerned about traffic impacts.

“It’s definitely upsetting just because of the traffic flow already. It just creates a lot more traffic and being a golfer myself, and like that course, it’s kind of hard for me to support,” said Nick Herbrig.

Mission Valley is also prone to flooding during heavy rains.

“I wouldn’t live there because of the flooding” said Cathy Roys. “I’ve seen it all my life. It will always flood and it’s crazy. It’s very disruptive. I just think less is more.”

The project could take as many as 20 years to complete and could include a portion of the golf course.

The San Diego City Planning Department estimates it would take at least two years for the environmental impact reports and public forums to be completed before construction begins.

<![CDATA[Russian Firm Buys American Brewery Pabst ]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:40:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/getty-PBR.jpg

Pabst Brewing Company, North America’s largest privately held brewing company, is the latest U.S. beer firm to be sold to an international buyer.

Russia-based brewer and beverage company Oasis Beverage and TSG Consumer Partners LLC, an American private equity firm, are partnering to buy PBC. TSG, based in San Francisco and New York, will take a minority stake, The New York Times reported.

The Pabst Brewing company, owned by billionaire investor C.Dean Metropoulos, is best known for Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer brand that has become a favorite in recent years among hipsters. The Los Angeles-based company has more than 30 beers in its portfolio, according to Pabst's website. Other notable brands include: Colt 45, Old Milwaukee, McSorley's, Stag, Schlitz, and Lone Star.

Oasis Beverages is the biggest independent brewer in Russia, according to the Times.

“Pabst Blue Ribbon is the quintessential American brand – it represents individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression – all the things that make this country great,” Oasis' Chairman Eugene Kashper said in a statement. “The opportunity to work with the company’s treasure trove of iconic brands, some of which I started my career selling, is a dream come true. It will be an honor to work with Pabst’s dedicated employees and partner distributors as we continue to build the business.”

Pabst Brewing Company was founded in Milwaukee in 1844 by Jacob Best and later sold to brewing magnate Paul Kalmanovitz. When Kalmanovitz died in 1987, the company was aquired by the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation. The IRS forced the foundation to sell the company to Metropoulos due to a federal law that bars charities from owning for profit-businesses.

In 2009, one of America’s biggest cultural icons, Anheusher-Busch, was sold to the Belgium-Brazilian brewer InBev.

In 2002, Miller Brewing Co. was sold to South African Breweries PLC for $5.6 billion, creating SABMiller, the world’s second largest beer company in the world.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Toronto Star via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SDPD Losing Ground in Battle to Retain Officers]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 06:13:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdpd+generic.JPG

The San Diego Police Department is losing ground, not gaining it, when it comes to having enough sworn officers to keep San Diego safe, falling 846 officers short of staffing goals, according to a report presented at a city council committee meeting Thursday.

This is not a new issue. The shortage of sworn officers in San Diego was described as a crisis in 2006. The latest report shows things could be getting worse – not better.

Sworn officers are retiring, taking experience with them. Others are leaving for higher paying jobs in other agencies.

"We've had to reduce investigative units such as vice, auto theft, gangs, narcotics and domestic violence,” said Jeff Jordan, Vice President of the San Diego Police Officers Association.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said during the last fiscal year, 160 officers were hired, but 162 left. That's a net loss of two officers.

The department, she said, is 846 officers below the budgeted staffing despite efforts to recruit and restore holiday pay, uniform and equipment allowance.

Officials have also increased overtime pay.

"Right now all you're doing is treating the symptoms. You haven't gotten to the cause, and the cause is compensation," said Jordan.

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey said: "We've only got so much money."

However, he agreed the problem is a top priority, along with infrastructure and other city needs.

The chief understands, but if the trend continues, she worries about the crime rate.

"Yes, we're holding, but if we continue to lose the amount of officers we do every single year with the experience, my concern is not only is it going to go up, but it will continue to be unsafe as we go down this road,” said Zimmerman.

The report was done by the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst and presented to the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

<![CDATA[Man Dead in Apparent Homicide in El Cajon: Police]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:47:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ElCajonhomicide.JPG

Police are investigating an apparent homicide at an El Cajon apartment complex.

Just before 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a woman called 911 to say her boyfriend needed help at an apartment complex in the 1400 block of Broadway.

El Cajon Police officers found a 38-year-old El Cajon man not breathing inside a unit. Paramedics were unable to save him, pronouncing him dead at the scene.

Before his death, the man called his girlfriend to say he had been in a physical fight and asked her for help, according to ECPD Lt. Frank Lahaye.

The case is being investigated as a homicide, but there is no suspect information at this point.

The victim's cause of death still needs to be determined as well.

If you have any information about this incident, call the El Cajon Police Department at 619-579-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

<![CDATA[Man Gets 14 Years for Hatchet Attack]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:22:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Travis-Kelley-SENTENCED.jpg

A San Diego man who beat a 75-year-old owner of a small jewelry store with a hatchet after his credit card was declined will spend the next 14 years in state prison, a judge ruled Thursday.

Travis Kelley, 25, was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for the violent attack that occurred at Hamlin’s Jewelry in El Cajon on Jan. 22, 2014. He pleaded guilty last month to attempted murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury.

According to police, Kelley entered the business on a ruse to purchase jewelry. When his credit card -- which was stolen -- was declined, he became enraged and attacked the owner of the shop, Carl Hamlin, striking him multiple times on the head with a hatchet.

After the blows, Hamlin fell behind the counter. He pulled out a small caliber handgun and pointed it at the suspect in self-defense. At that point, police said the pair began fighting again as Kelley tried to grab the victim’s gun.

Police said Kelley was able to wrestle the gun away from Hamlin. The suspect then fled from the store on foot, with the victim’s gun, before officers could arrive.

Kelley then got into a getaway car driven by an accomplice, Ali Armeen Toombs, 21.

Hamlin suffered multiple head injuries and was hospitalized for several days but survived the attack.

Kelley was arrested a few days later in Ocean Beach. Toombs was also taken into custody and pleaded guilty to robbery and burglary. He was sentenced to one year in jail with credit for time served.

Prosecutor Gordon Paul Davis said the motivation for the brutal burglary was drugs, as both Kelley and Toombs were looking for a way to fuel a heroin habit.

He said Kelley went in and out of the jewelry store several times, striking Hamlin time after time, and making sure he had succeeded in hurting him.

"We charged him with a violent felony for each and every one of those assaults," said Davis.

The prosecutor called Hamlin "tough" and said the jewelry store owner is a man of integrity, adding, "He's a good guy."

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[‘Operation Heatwave’ Yields 34 Arrests]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:37:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Operation-Heatwave-0918.jpg

A two-day U.S. Marshals Service operation spanning San Diego’s East County resulted in the arrests of 34 fugitives wanted on felony warrants, officials confirmed.

“Operation Heatwave” – a collaborative effort with U.S. Marshals as well as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies – wrapped up Thursday. Over the course of the sweep, officials made several significant arrests, including felons with violent criminal background and gang ties.

One of the people taken into custody was El Cajon resident Catalina Andrews, the mother of Don Andrea Torrillo, the inmate who escaped from San Diego Central Jail earlier this month under a different name and was later captured at an El Cajon motel.


Andrews allegedly assisted Torrillo while he was on the run and was charged with harboring a fugitive from justice, officials said.

Brenton Haligowski, a documented member of a local skinhead and white supremacist group, was also arrested at a trailer park in Lakeside during the operation. He was hiding in a bathroom with numerous syringes in his pockets at the time of his arrest, officials said, and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

Joshua Gessl was also arrested at his home across the street from Lindo Park Elementary School in Lakeside for child cruelty. He’s currently being held at San Diego Central Jail on $210,000 bail.

Beside the 34 arrests, officials said they also cleared 48 warrants and seized narcotics during Operation Heatwave. Numerous leads were also generated that will help in future fugitive investigations.

Some of the agencies that participated in the sweep included the El Cajon Police Department, the La Mesa Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among many, many others.

As one U.S. Marshals Service official noted, coordination was critical in the large-scale operation.

“Making sure all of the different agencies are together and show up at the same time [is important] and that we do our homework before we come out here to these addresses,” he said.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Women Held at Gunpoint Forced to Get Cash From ATMs: Cops]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:05:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/20140907+Police+Lights.jpg

San Diego Police arrested a suspect Thursday who they say forced two women to drive him to ATMs and pull money from their accounts at gunpoint.

The victims told police a man walked up to them as they were getting in to their vehicle on 7700 Draper Avenue in La Jolla on May 4 just after midnight.

Threatening them with a gun, the suspect forced them into their car and ordered them to drive to nearby ATMs, according to SDPD Lt. Chris McGrath.

Both women were told to withdraw a significant amount of money from their account. They complied.

The man then ordered them to drop him off at a specific location, where he took the money and ran off. McGrath did not say where the man was dropped off or how much money he stole.

After months of investigation, police identified 24-year-old Keith Russell Lucket as the suspect in this case.

Lucket was arrested Thursday at a Moreno Valley home and booked into jail on two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery with a gun.

If you have any information about this case, call the San Diego Police robbery unit at 619-531-2299.

<![CDATA[Thieves Target Out-of-Town Pet Owners]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 06:15:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*132/9875f886d15d4fa9a2144a1157875977.jpg

A Northern California couple is behind bars for taking advantage of pet owners.

An employee of PetSmart in San Mateo took information from customers who were boarding their pets, such as their address and length of time they'd be gone. Then, the thieves ransacked their homes, stealing everything from jewelry to a car, according to the San Mateo Sheriff’s Department.

“Especially when you're boarding your pet with somebody, you're putting a tremendous amount of trust in them," said Point Loma resident and dog owner Courtney Yates when she heard about the crime.

"I'm actually going to think twice whether or not I'm going to board them at a facility versus a family member with whom I don't have to second guess my choice," Yates said.

In an email, PetSmart's corporate communications manager Erin Gray said, "Pet parents have been incredibly supportive of PetSmart and understand that one bad apple does not change our deep commitment to them and their pets. In our 26-year history, we aren't aware of anything like this ever happening before and believe it was an isolated incident."

Both the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department have senior volunteers who will do vacation checks on your home when you’re away. To sign up, just call your local law enforcement agency.

There are other precautions you can take to protect your home. Jan Caldwell with the sheriff’s department recommends not posting travel details on social media and only giving details of your trip to someone you trust. Caldwell suggests asking neighbors you truly trust to keep an eye on your home.

Also, light timers are a good idea because it gives the appearance of someone home. You can set the timers to turn the lights on at a certain time and on what days.

Lastly, Caldwell suggests placing a hold on your mail and all deliveries, such as water and newspaper, so it won't be obvious to thieves when you're away.

<![CDATA[Ex-Car Dealer Admits to Taking $719K From Drug Dealer]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:31:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mussari.jpg

The former owner of a luxury car dealership in San Diego now admits he took more than $700,000 in cash from a customer who prosecutors say was a multi-state drug trafficker and failed to report those cash transactions to the federal government, as required by law.

John Mussari Jr. has been the subject of several NBC 7 Investigates stories.

In April, Mussari admitted to defrauding Mussari Motors clients of more than $200,000.

Some of those angry customers said they paid Mussari for high-end vehicles, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, but never got the pink-slips that proved they owned the car.

In April, Mussari pleaded guilty to eight felonies. He recently finished a brief term in county jail and is now on probation and enrolled in a work-furlough program. Mussari’s lawyer told NBC 7 Investigates that his client has repaid approximately $150,000 to his victims and promises to pay another $70,000 in restitution.

But if Mussari can’t pay back that money by December, his victims may have to wait years for their cash.

That’s because on Thursday, Mussari pleaded guilty to evading the federal cash transaction law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson said Mussari failed to report $719,000 in cash from a convicted drug dealer in a series of illegal transactions during the fall and winter of 2008.

“The drug trafficker in this case purchased two Lamborghinis, a Porsche and a Ferrari during the 4-month period,” Walker-Hobson told NBC 7 Investigates. “The drug trafficker also gave John Mussari substantial cash for an investment scheme.”

Court documents reveal that federal agents first detained Mussari when he tried to leave the drug dealer’s home in Fallbrook. Agents found $205,000 in cash inside the Lamborghini he was driving that night.

That evidence was among the information provided to a grand jury, which issued a four-count federal indictment against him last November.

Thursday’s plea deal means Mussari will not be prosecuted on three of those counts, including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activity.

He instead pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to evade currency reporting laws.

In an exclusive interview after Thursday’s hearing, Mussari’s attorney told NBC 7 his client did not -- and will not -- admit that he knew the customer was a drug dealer.

Attorney Anthony Colombo also said his client is “committed to turning his life around and making amends for the mistakes that he made back in 2008 through 2010, during the financial crisis, that led to the decisions he made to try to save his business.”

Mussari faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on Dec. 5.

Prosecutor Walker-Hobson told NBC 7 Investigates she will recommend a 30-month prison term, but the sentencing judge could overrule that recommendation and send Mussari to prison for a longer term.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Proposed Bill Would Rename Base Post Office]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:39:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Camp-Pendleton-Generic.jpg

The Mainside post office at Camp Pendleton could soon be renamed after Medal of Honor recipients if a newly-introduced bill is passed.

Earlier this week, 49th District California Congressman Darrell Issa introduced H.R. 5468, a bill to rename the Mainside post office located at 1103 USPS Building at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base to the “Camp Pendleton Medal of Honor Post Office.”

The bill proposes to name the post office to specifically recognize those of the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy Corpsman with strong ties to Camp Pendleton who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest award for valor and heroism.

Issa released the following statement in support of the bill:

“The stories of valor by Medal of Honor recipients are inspiring and worthy of remembrance by every citizen in our country. This naming will serve as an enduring reminder for all that visit of the heroism of their fellow servicemen and servicewomen. To all of the Marines and Navy Corpsman with ties to Camp Pendleton we are grateful for your bravery and service.”

The bill has the bipartisan support of 50 members of Congress.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Man Charged in Calif. Wildfire Case]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 07:07:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Wayne-Allen-Huntsman.jpg

A 37-year-old man has been arrested on an arson charge and is being held on $10 million bail stemming from the King Fire burning in the Sierra foothills, one of the largest wildfires currently burning in California, Cal Fire announced.

At a news conference Thursday, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said Wayne Allen Huntsman was taken into custody at the Placerville jail on Wednesday. He was formally arrested on one count of arson on forest land where prosecutors accuse him of "willfully and maliciously" setting fire to land around Pollock Pines. Huntsman was also charged with a special aggravating circumstance of injuring a firefighter.

Huntsman's last known address was listed in Aptos, about nine miles from Santa Cruz, but when a reporter went there, neighbors said Huntsman hadn't lived there for more than a decade. It was not immediately clear whether Huntsman was being represented by an attorney. No one answered the phone number associated with his last known address.

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said Huntsman is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 19. The complaint shows that Huntsman had been previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft and unlawfully taking or driving a vehicle, stemming back to 1997 in Santa Cruz.

Authorities said Huntsman had "no known" arson conviction in his past.

Officials, however, would not comment on what evidence led them to suspect Huntsman. But Pierson did say the "ongoing" investigation "started within minutes" after the fire was reported on Saturday. But he wouldn't say more.

"I don't mean to be difficult," Pierson told the crowd of reporters. "I don't want to be difficult, but I don't want to comment specifically on anything that's not in the complaint."

Huntsman’s sister told the Associated Press she strongly doubts her brother is responsible for starting the blaze. Tami Criswell of Salinas said Thursday that her brother loves the forest and always has been very cautious with campfires.

Criswell said her brother works odd jobs in construction and security. She said, if he was involved in the fire, it wasn't intentional.

As of the Thursday, King Fire had more than doubled in size overnight, reaching more than 71,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, and was only 5 percent contained. Pollock Pines is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is about 15 miles east of Placerville and 60 miles east of Sacramento. Officials said it was costing $5 million to battle the fire. Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for El Dorado County.

Slightly more than 2,000 homes, and more than 1,500 other structures were in the dangerous line of fire near Pollock Pines in Northern California, according to the daily Cal Fire update. On Wednesday, 500 homes were threatened.

Despite that, no structures have actually burned, unlike in the town of Weed in Siskiyou county, where more than 150 structures, mostly homes and two churches, suffered damage from the Boles Fire there. On Thursday, the fire in Weed, which had burned 375 acres, was 65 percent contained, and Highway 97 had been reopened.

The King Fire is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, and so far, has caused two injuries. While the largest fire currently blazing in California, it is more than three times smaller than the Rim Fire near Yosemite, which burned about 250,000 acres last August, becoming California's third largest wildfire in history.

As a result of the King Fire, a portion of Highway 50 was closed, and many evacuations were in place. A King Fire Facebook page was set up by Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service to keep the community alerted with up-to-date information.

The page was full of community members offering consolation and help. Yvette Cadeaux offered to take in "goats, dogs or a horse or two down here in Grass Valley for anyone who needs to place their critters."

Laura Owens, who wrote in that her husband works for animal control, thanked all the "staff and teams on the fire lines and behind the scenes coordinating the efforts. We appreciate all of you!"

As of Thursday, more than 3,600 firefighters were fighting the King Fire.

NBC Bay Area's Tim Bollinger and Gonzalo Rojas and NBC affliate KSBW contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: El Dorado County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[California's Richest Man Stepping Down as Oracle CEO]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 07:13:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/larry-ellison.jpg

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a Silicon Valley icon, is stepping down, effective immediately, the Redwood Shores company announced on Thursday.

Ellison will become executive chairman and continue to work as the company's chief technology officer, but he will be formally replaced by Mark Hurd and Safra Catz. Oracle's Board of Directors announced in a statement it had elected Ellison to the position of Executive Chairman of Oracle's board and appointed him the company's Chief Technology Officer.

"Larry has made it very clear that he wants to keep working full time and focus his energy on product engineering, technology development and strategy," Dr. Michael Boskin, the current director of Oracle's board, said in the statement.

"Safra and Mark are exceptional executives who have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to lead, manage and grow the company. The directors are thrilled that the best senior executive team in the industry will continue to move the company forward into a bright future," Boskin said.

Before being promoted, Catz and Hurd were Oracle's co-presidents. Ellison founded Oracle Corp. in 1977. In 2014, Forbes listed him as the third-wealthiest man in America and the fifth-wealthiest person in world, with a net worth of $51.3 billion. When he's out of the boardroom, Ellison is known for his love of yachting. He brought the America's Cup race to San Francisco.

"The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine," Ellison said in the statement.

Tech industry experts said Thursday that Ellison stepping aside, even a little bit, could have serious implications for Silicon Valley.

“There’s an old joke in Silicon Valley -- What’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison? God doesn’t think he’s Larry Ellison," said Rich Jaroslovsky, chief journalist for SmartNews.

Jaroslovsky then quipped: "But God doesn't retire."

That joke has even become the title of a book, where reporter Mike Wilson described Ellison as the tech world’s Warren Beatty: “racing yachts, buying jets, and romancing beautiful women.”

Ellison, the wealthiest man in California, according to Forbes, is among the “last generation of swashbucklers,” and his departure from Oracle is sure to have “repercussions,” Jaroslovsky said.

Jaroslovsky did not know why he was stepping down, but he did say the 70-year-old Ellison’s intentions might be “admirable.”

“Perhaps he’s one of those founders who wants to exit gracefully,” Jaroslovsky said. “Bill Gates did it. But the list of those greats who leave by their own choice is a list that’s not very long.” 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Mapping Out Advance Warning of Catastrophic Wildfires]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:21:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/santa-ana-wildfire-map.jpg

A new mapping tool may help predict when Santa Ana winds will create conditions for a catastrophic fire in Southern California.

It's no secret to San Diego residents that the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that usually arrive in the fall months have the potential to turn small brush fires into raging infernos.

We just need to look to the damage left in the wake of the Cedar Fire in 2003 and the 2007 Witch Creek fire for proof of how Santa Ana winds can increase fire danger.

Now there's a new online tool that could potentially help fire agencies gauge the likelihood of a catastrophic fire.

It's called the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index, a classification system that analyzes the fire threat potential of the powerful Santa Ana winds.

The index, unveiled Wednesday, shows whether a fire may grow rapidly to uncontrollably as a result of weather conditions like gusty winds. It can also alert first responders and the public in time to take appropriate action.

Roger Pierce, the director of the National Weather Service in San Diego, said he believes this new tool help the public be better prepared for wildfires.

In fact, a beta version of the tool correctly predicted at least three of the nine fires that burned in one day in San Diego County in May.

The map will stretch from Santa Barbara to San Diego and include a six-day forecast.

When winds are gusting, the maps will be updated with yellow for marginal fire risk, orange for moderate, red for high and purple for extreme.

Clicking on an area will yield a full forecast, as well as advisories about how to prepare for a possible conflagration. Users also can find the locations of fires already burning and live readings from weather stations.

The classification system is based on 30 years of historical Southern California weather data.

It has four levels, ranging from "Marginal" to "Extreme" and will include tips for homeowners like charging cell phones, keeping a full gas tank, studying evacuation routes and making contingency plans for pets.

"I asked my team to come up with something similar to the categories to rate hurricanes," says Dave Geier, Vice President of Electric Transmission and System Engineering at San Diego Gas & Electric.

The development of the index was a collaboration among San Diego Gas & Electric, UCLA, and the U.S. Forest Service, which was already working on a categorization system for fires and the Santa Ana winds.

The threat index includes four levels -- marginal suggests fires may grow rapidly. An "Extreme" rating means fires could burn very intensely.

For more information, visit: santaanawildfirethreat.com.

<![CDATA[Take the Phone Quiz: iPhone 6 or Android? ]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:59:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pile+of+phones1.jpg

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus hit the shelves at Apple Stores on Friday morning, ending weeks of anticipation by Apple fans.

At some Apple stores, lines have stretched around the corner for days or even weeks. Apple sold more than 4 million phones in online preorders on the very first day they were available. And this weekend, the company is expected to make billions. According to Bloomberg Business Week, the phone line accounts for more than half of Apple's $171 billion annual revenue.

But is the phone for everyone? More importantly, is it for you?

We put together this Phone Wizard to help you find out. We examined the key features of eight state-of-the-art phones, looking at things like battery life, size, operating system and camera quality. After you answer a handful of questions about your personality, preferences and habits, we identify the phone that we think is right for you.

Now, don't get carried away: Just because we tell you the Samsung Galaxy S5 is better for you than the iPhone 6 Plus (that 4K HD is just so important to you, right?) doesn't mean you should go and buy one today. At least visit your local retailer to see how it feels in your hand before plopping down a few hundred dollars. But consider this a starting point. 

Photo Credit: Photograph: Alamy]]>
<![CDATA[Arson Suspect Sought in City Heights]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:02:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/city-heights-arson-suspect.jpg NBC 7's Matt Rascon reports on a series of fires considered arson in one area of City Heights. ]]> <![CDATA[Calif. Wildfire Threatens Homes]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 01:11:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nws-king-fire.jpg

The King Fire was still raging out of control in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento, on Wednesday evening, as more than 2,500 firefighters battled the blaze, which grew by thousands of acres overnight and has burned through nearly 29 square miles.

The wildfire was threatening 500 homes, with some under mandatory evacuation orders, and was just 5 percent contained.

“It's burning in steep, dense terrain with heavy timber that's posing quite a challenge,'' said Alyssa Smith, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Homeowners are just waiting, hoping to get word that their house is in the clear. Mark Catrambone, along with his wife and dog, were evacuated from their home in Swansboro. They said they’re thankful they had enough time to pack their valuables and get out safely.

“We’re safe and that’s the most important thing,” Catrambone said. “Would hate to lose it all. It’s just property, but still, it’s your life and home.”

Twenty-one families have been evacuated. Fire officials said keeping those houses safe is a top priority, but fire crews are struggling with dangerous conditions.

“It’s risky out there. It’s a fire, moving quickly, and it’s very steep and rugged terrain,” Capt. Michelle Eidam said, adding the low humidity and the wind is making their job tough.

“Our fuels are very dry,” Eidam said. “That’s playing a huge role in helping this fire grow quickly, burn hot and spread fast.”

The King Fire is one of a number of wildfires burning across California. Dozens of homes, churches and buildings were wiped out after a fire roared through the small logging town of Weed, California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: @NWSSacramento / Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. King Fire More Than Doubles]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:59:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/king5.jpg

When residents of El Dorado County, 60 miles from Sacramento, went to sleep Wednesday night, the King Fire threatening their homes was nearly 30,000 acres.

When they woke up Thursday morning, the blaze had more than doubled to more than 70,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, and was only 5 percent contained.

Slightly more than 2,000 homes, and more than 1,500 other structures were in the dangerous line of fire near Pollock Pines in Northern California, according to the the daily Cal Fire update. On Wednesday, 500 homes were threatened.

Despite that, no structures have actually burned, unlike in the town of Weed in Siskiyou county, where more than 1,000 structures, mostly homes and two churches, suffered damage from the Boles Fire there. On Thursday, the fire in Weed, which had burned 375 acres, was 65 percent contained, and Highway 97 had been reopened.

The King Fire is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, and so far, has caused two injuries. While the largest fire currently blazing in California, it is more than three times smaller than the Rim Fire near Yosemite, which burned about 250,000 acres last August, becoming California's third largest wildfire in history.

As a result of the King Fire, a portion of Highway 50 was closed, and many evacuations were in place. A King Fire Facebook page was set up by Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service to keep the community alerted with up-to-date information.

The page was full of community members offering consolation and help. Yvette Cadeaux offered to take in "goats, dogs or a horse or two down here in Grass Valley for anyone who needs to place their critters."

Laura Owens, who wrote in that her husband works for animal control, thanked all the "staff and teams on the fire lines and behind the scenes coordinating the efforts. We appreciate all of you!"

As of Thursday, more than 3,600 firefighters were fighting the King Fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Cal Fire/US Forest Service Facebook page]]>
<![CDATA[Border Patrol to Test Body Cameras]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:58:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDPD-Body-Cams.jpg U.S. Border Patrol officials will soon begin testing out body cameras in an effort to increase transparency and accountability in the agency. NBC 7’s Nicole Gomez reports on the change on Sept. 18, 2014.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Cabo Running Out of Food, in Need of Help]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:26:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MexicoTropicalWeather.jpg

Survivors of Hurricane Odile described the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas as lawless and desperate; a place where basic supplies are needed and thousands of Americans are trapped.

Even first responders, tasked with helping Cabo San Lucas recover from the disastrous Hurricane Odile, have run out of food themselves and are in desperate need of help, a spokesperson told NBC 7.

Robert Allen, a Canadian firefighter working for the Cabo Fire Department, came to San Diego on Wednesday for two reasons: to get his family out and to get help for his city.

“The guys are having trouble keeping their own families fed and watered right now, so it’s challenging,” said Allen, who serves on the department’s public relations team.

Hitting land Sunday and Monday, the Category 3 storm left a wide path of chaos across the Baja California Peninsula.

Odile tore through the Mexican resort state of Baja California Sur late Sunday and Monday.

The Los Cabos airport was closed to commercial travel and basic supplies were limited or running low. Survivors like Allen captured video of rampant looting.

“Costco, Sam’s Club, all those stores looted, and there’s been some local Mexican box stores as well,” said Allen. “And then there's gangs roaming the streets and things like that too, helping themselves to people’s personal effects and stuff like that.”

Suburbs once filled with homes were flattened into a field. The main electrical towers were downed, and power poles littered the streets.

City officials don’t expect the electricity to be turned on again for another three weeks, Allen said.

He and his coworkers have been focused on clearing the roads so emergency vehicle can access different parts of Cabo.

But they don’t have the equipment of other stations to help pry people out of tight spots, and as their food runs low, so does their energy.

Allen plans to contact consulates in the U.S. to see if other countries can offer aid.

If that doesn’t work, Allen – the only Cabo firefighter outside the city right now – will spread the word on his own, asking everyone for assistance. He has launched a GoFundMe.com page to collect donations.

“It originally started as a starving kids program, and now it’s turned into a starving firefighter program just to take care of the guys so they can go help other people,” said Allen.

Newlyweds Craig Newell and his wife Jill said the hurricane was awful in itself but it was the aftermath that was truly frightening.

There was no phone service, no cellular service, no Wi-Fi, nothing.

“All to be gone and to have nothing whatsoever except for our wits, what’s in our backpacks and what’s in our pockets,” Craig said.

A San Diego firefighter, Craig knew they couldn't wait for rescue but had to rescue themselves.

So when they had the chance to jump on an airplane to an unknown destination without their luggage, they took it. They ended up near La Paz and were able to get back to the U.S. Wednesday night.

Those tourists stranded in Cabo are getting very desperate, even hostile, they said. The evacuation is unorganized.

“It’s everybody for themselves,” Jill said.

Both wanted to know why the U.S. government has not gotten involved in the evacuation efforts.

“Thousands of our citizens are trapped down there in horrible conditions that need rescue,” Craig said.

“[Mexican authorities] are overwhelmed with the evacuation,” he said. “I don’t think they have the resources or the personnel or the training maybe to accomplish this massive evacuation.

Another American arrived on the same San Diego-bound flight as Allen: Peter Tschetter.

He said descriptions and photos shown in the media don’t do the hurricane's devastation justice.

“It was total chaos, not even fit for animals to be there,” said Tchetter.

The tourist described a suddenly dangerous city where people were roaming the streets, looking for water.

He said men, women and children grabbed everything from stores -- even things they didn't need.

Homeowners began barricading their property to protect themselves from looters.

“People were even breaking into homes of people who live there to steal their stuff, and if they didn't get out, they'd probably kill them,” said Tchetter.

Tchetter and some 26,000 foreign tourists are struggling to get out of the turmoil, but Allen will be returning in a week to help those left behind.